COVID-19 Federal Responses: Monday, April 20, 2020

COVID-19 Federal Responses: Monday, April 20, 2020

Congress is nearing a deal on legislation to provide additional funding for some of the initiatives passed in the CARES Act. Reports are beginning to emerge about the details that are being negotiated.

  • Specifically, the bill could include upwards of $300 billion for the Small Business Association (SBA) to award more loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The SBA finished distributing the $350 billion it received for the PPP in the CARES Act last week. The bill could also provide around $50 billion in funding for the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program which is also out of money. The SBA is not accepting new applications for loans under either program until Congress replenishes funding.
  • The bill could also include $75 billion for the healthcare system. It is not clear exactly how that funding would be divided throughout the healthcare system. It would also include separate funding for virus testing.
  • Democrats still prefer to add more provisions to the bill, most notably in the form of funding for state and local governments.
  • The timing of when a vote in either the House or Senate could occur is not yet known, but leadership of both Chambers are advising Members to prepare for a vote as soon as this week.

In follow-up to last week’s release of President Trump’s plan to reopen the country, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a guide for how the healthcare system can begin providing elective procedures again. The guide describes certain conditions that should be met related to such factors as the prevalence of COVID-19 in the area, supplies of equipment, and testing capacity before elective procedures can begin.

CMS also announced it is requiring nursing homes to report data on COVID-19 cases in their facilities to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

CMS is creating a clinical practice improvement activity (CPIA) within the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) for participating in clinical trials related to COVID-19. In order to receive credit for the new MIPS COVID-19 Clinical Trials improvement activity, clinicians must attest that they participate in a COVID-19 clinical trial utilizing a drug or biological product to treat a patient with a COVID-19 infection and report their findings through a clinical data repository or clinical data registry for the duration of their study. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), pushed back against recent protests of state and local laws keeping businesses closed to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus.

The Department of Defense has contracted with 3M, Honeywell and Owens & Minor to produce 39 million N95 masks over the next 90 days. The contracts are worth a combined $133 million. 

The CDC released updated data on COVID-19 patient information by race and ethnicity. The CDC only has race and ethnicity data for 35 percent of known COVID-19 cases.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will collaborate with the CDC and the NIH to validate antibody tests for COVID-19. The government has expedited approval for many tests to help respond to the public health emergency. Some labs are reporting that many of the tests are unreliable. 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced it is awarding $110 million in grants for substance use treatment and mental health services during the public health emergency.

With supplies running low, President Trump is invoking the Defense Production Act to procure more swabs for COVID-19 tests.

The White House is advising federal employees to prepare to return to their offices soon. Many federal employees are working remotely.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a $19 billion relief package for farmers.